The Trail of Tears

An overview of the events where the United States government forced the Cherokee on a “Trail of Tears” which ultimately led to the death of thousands and the downfall of this Native American tribe.

In 1838, the Cherokee nation was effectively removed, in its entirety, by the government of the Unites States of America. The forced removal was part of an effort to both neuter the Cherokee, one of the strongest native Nations and to grab all of the land upon which it had lived for, in various forms, thousands of years. The forced march was named, The Trail Of Tears, for a variety of reasons. It forced the natives from their ancestral home, it was a death march and it placed the Cherokee in an alien land, virtually devoid of anything which would allow them to continue living in their traditional manner. The Trail of Tears resulted in thousands of deaths, the separation of families and has been considered in hindsight as an attempt at genocide. The eviction and forced march, which came to be known as the Trail of Tears, took place during the fall and winter of 1838-39 and was badly mismanaged. Inadequate food supplies led to terrible suffering, especially after frigid weather arrived. About 4,000 Cherokees died on the one-hundred and sixteen-day journey, many because the escorting troops refused to slow or stop so that the ill and exhausted could recover. It is the purpose of this paper to examine the motivations for the forced exodus from the point of view of the U.S. government, the timeline of the march and the impact it had before, during and after on the Cherokee people. The point of this examination is to, hopefully, develop for the reader a clear understanding of one of the most tragic episodes in the enforcement of Indian Policy by the United States Government.

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